Having recently visited France and enjoyed their culture and culinary “miracles” along with impeccably excellent wines, once again, I was compelled to balance my experiences with historical facts. I imagined French to be prototypical of a pan-European culture. Their politics, daily toils and the way of life seamed to be settled and non-coercive. The media and the public institutions holding hands, usually criticized deviating from the norm by any entity not under state control domestically or internationally. The usual suspects such as a global warming and polluting the Mother Nature were daily unpalatable diet in the news. This politically correct and subdued image was blazingly communicated to the people through their carefully contrived massaging.
However, until the German victory in the Franco-Prussian War in 1870, the French, not the Germans, were considered the villains of Europe. They invaded Italy at least twice during the Renaissance, and allied themselves with the Infidel Turks against their fellow Christians. At the beginning of the eighteenth century, the ambition of Louis XIV caused the War of the Spanish Succession, which lasted from 1701 to 1715. And of course the French revolutionaries and Napoleon wrought havoc in Europe from 1793 to 1815. Later in the nineteenth century, Napoleon III attempted, unsuccessfully, to emulate his much more capable uncle, involving France in the Crimean War (1854-1856), the Second Italian War for Independence (1859), the Mexican Adventure (1863-1865), and, finally and disastrously for France, the Franco-Prussian War (1870-1871). You may enjoy this description of the French, written by an English traveler in Italy in the year 1802, at the time of the Napoleonic Wars:
“The Gauls have, indeed, at all times been the bane of public felicity, and the torment of the human species. In ancient times, restless, bold, and ferocious, they invaded and ravaged Italy, Greece, and Asia Minor. Tamed by the power and civilized by the arts of Rome they slumbered for a few centuries, till they were conquered and barbarized again, first by the Franks and then by the Normans, when they arose with redoubled impetuosity to disturb the neighboring states, and to convulse all Europe with an uninterrupted succession of ambitious projects, plundering excursions, and unprovoked attacks. One consolatory reflection is suggested by the history of this turbulent race, and upon its solidity we must for the present rest all hopes of liberty and independence in Europe. It is this, that while the ardour, the impetuosity, and the numbers of the French have almost constantly given them the advantage in the beginning, the insolence and frivolity, apparently inseparable from the national character, have as invariably foiled them in the end, and involved them in shame and disaster. Their present leader, it is true, is an Italian: his depth and perseverance may perhaps fix for a time the volatility, and with it the fate of the nation over which he presides; but durability, so seldom granted to the wisest of human institutions, can never be annexed to French domination.”
I might also note that the French during this time period, like the Nazis in a later age, plundered all of Europe of art treasures—though one hears nothing of it nowadays. Perhaps, their past and possible feelings of guilt brought forth the state based on many liberal/libertine values. Today, France has irreconcilable differences with their large Muslim population. This is causing much consternation among the people of France and it may well reflect in local and national elections in the near future. The so-called right-wing parties are gaining strength in public polls. Could it be the start of the turning-away from Socialist experimentation? Well, we’ll see so put this in your pipe and smoke it.
From our Washington correspondent